The Allegiant is the titular rebel organization "allied with the original purpose of our city" (4.13). They "claim that we're meant to be in factions because we've been in them since the beginning" (4.15). Isn't that like claiming we're not meant to use cars because we started out life as cavemen without a wheel?
Although the number of people in the Allegiant is unclear, we are sure that they are led by Cara and Johanna and include Zeke and Tori (who ends up dying shortly after leaving the city).
Honestly, the Allegiant don't play a large part in the novel at all once everyone is out of the city. We see them start to mount an assault against Evelyn and her factionless ways, and we see Johanna carrying a gun and allying with Marcus, but in the end, everyone—both the Allegiant and Evelyn—decides to just give up and start over. Maybe that actually is the original purpose of civilization: to let everyone live the life he or she wants to lead.
As you'd expect from the conclusion to an epic trilogy, a ton of stuff goes down at the end of Allegiant. Basically the entire Bureau of Genetic Welfare is brainwashed into forgetting the whole "genetically damaged" thing. Tobias convinces Evelyn to give up control of Chicago in exchange for world peace—or at least regional peace. And (spoiler alert!) last but not least, our main character croaks.
We go over the specifics of Tris's death on her character page (take a few tissues with you, just in case), so we'll talk about the other two things here.
The entire plot of Allegiant revolves around figuring out what's outside of Chicago. The answer: the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. It's revealed that Chicago is a giant social experiment (like The Real World times a million), and that it's going downhill faster than that show did when it moved to Las Vegas.
The Bureau decides to brainwash everyone inside of Chicago using a memory serum. Tris and her friends do not want this to happen (obviously), because that's pretty much the same as just murdering everyone.
So Tris ends up doing the exact same thing to the Bureau. She unleashes the memory serum on them, after inoculating all her friends. Isn't that a bit hypocritical of her? Was her plan any different from Nita's, which was to just kill everyone in charge?
Another plot that has been going on since Divergent is the power struggle for the city. From Jeanine to Marcus to Johanna to Evelyn, adults have been battling for control of the city for chapters and chapters and chapters.
The sticking point in the battle for the city has always been the faction system. Some people want factions, some people don't. The problem is that the factionless are pretty much just another faction, intended to limit people's free will and impose a system of control on them.
Tobias finally manages to talk sense into Evelyn, his mother, who is the leader of the factionless. It's about time someone managed to say what we've been thinking this whole time: "The reason the factions were evil is because there was no way out of them," [Tobias] say[s]. "They gave us the illusion of choice without actually giving us a choice. That's the same thing you're doing here, by abolishing them. You're saying, go make choices. But make sure they aren't factions or I'll grind you to bits!" (48.39).
After Tobias says this, he begs Evelyn to choose him instead of the city. He's pretty much begging her to act like a mother for once. And… she does. She gives up control of the city and agrees to an alliance with the Allegiant, and everyone pretty much lives in peace. Um, this is sweet and all (try not to get teary eyed during their mother-son hug fest) but why did she come to this decision now instead of years ago, when dozens of lives could have been spared?
After two books spent trapped inside a fenced-in Chicago (and not even knowing for sure that it's Chicago at all), we finally get to see the outside world in Allegiant. "The world beyond ours is full of roads and dark buildings and collapsing power lines" (13.1). So… um, it's basically the same as inside the fence, we guess. Oh, but Tobias gets to see a deer crossing the road, so at least we haven't managed to kill off all wildlife.
In addition to ruins and cute animals, there are billboards with "colors and shapes and words and pictures [that] are so garish, so abundant, that they are mesmerizing" (13.11). Great. The outside world is exactly the same as the inside world, just with more product placement. The advertising emphasizes just how cut-off from the outside world Chicago is, and it also proves that the world of Divergent does take place in our world.
Tris and Tobias find out just how large our world is. Chicago was their world, but they find out that it's barely a fraction of the size of the whole planet. This makes some people, like Peter, feel insignificant, in a very end-of-Casablanca kind of way. If the world is that huge, how can any one person matter? But Tobias tries to encourage him, saying, "All that land is filled with people, every one of them different, and the things they do to each other matter" (33.12).
So, the U.S. is pretty much in ruins as a result of the Purity War (see our section on "Genetics" for more about this catastrophe). People near Chicago either live in the Bureau of Genetic Welfare (which is in O'Hare Airport) or in run-down suburbs known as "the fringe."
The fringe is basically a ghetto made up of "dark houses with boarded-up windows" (23.150). Everyone seems to be armed out there, even the kids. Most of the residents are people who have been exiled. It's like District 9 without the aliens.
Why would anyone want to live out there? Nita's friend Rafi says, "In the cities, if you get killed, definitely no one will give a damn" (23.131). But he says this as someone is practically killed right in front of him, and no one does anything. If that's giving a damn, what does not giving a damn look like?
Every question that can be answered must be
Answered or at least engaged.
Illogical thought processes must be
Challenged when they arise.
Wrong answers must be corrected.
Correct answers must be affirmed.
—From the Erudite faction manifesto
Once again, Veronica Roth cheats a little bit by including a fictional epigraph, but it still means something. As the last book in the trilogy, Allegiant has the responsibility of answering tons of questions that have been raised by the first two books. Whether or not the book answers all your questions, and does this logically, is up to you to decide.
Just as the leap from Divergent to Insurgent didn't require pursuing a master's degree in Post-Apocalyptic Studies, Allegiant is at the same reading level as the two books before it. Tris ends up leaving Chicago, but everyone in the outside world talks the same as the people inside the fence. There's no new dialect, language, or slang to learn in order to understand what's going on.
In fact, everything is pretty straightforward. The serum that erases memory: memory serum. The serum that causes death: death serum. We heard there's a serum that causes people to speak in really long words: supercalifragilisticexpialidociouserum—but it's still in beta testing.
Chicago starts to look like a totalitarian state in Allegiant. Everyone has an armband, even the factionless—and they're all wearing "the factionless symbol—an empty circle" (2.3). Evelyn should seriously consider hiring a graphic designer.
Evelyn acts as if she wants to unite everyone under a banner of factionlessness, but the armbands serve to segregate people even further. The factionless basically become a faction, one that patrols the city and enforces strict rules like a curfew and a totalitarian work schedule. The only thing Evelyn is missing at this point is a stylish little Charlie Chaplin moustache, if you ask us.
After the Nazis used them, armbands have become seriously questionable fashion choices. Roth seems to be showing us that any kind of attempt to limit people's freedom to choose—even if it's done in good faith, for what you think might be the greater good—is a big problem. Eliminating choice leads to the elimination of happiness and love, but it sure doesn't lead to the elimination of violence and death.
Allegiant reveals that everything we've read in Divergent and Insurgent is the result of a nationwide genetic experiment. See, scientists isolated a "murder gene" (15.15) and removed it, "editing" (15.18) humanity as if we were all hip-hop albums being sold at Wal-Mart. This experiment failed, as these things always do in science fiction: "Take away someone's fear, or low intelligence, or dishonesty… and you take away their compassion" (15.22).
The result was the Purity War, in which most of America was destroyed. We're not sure how, but we do know it was grisly. So, in an effort to rebuild society and cure all this genetic damage, people were put in various cities (like Chicago), fenced off, and left to reproduce like genetically damaged bunnies until the genes fit right into place once again. Those people are called Divergent.
Being experiments themselves, Tris and Tobias are kind of dumbfounded that all of this has been going on behind the scenes. "It's like they just arbitrarily decided that one kind of DNA was bad and the other was good" (24.21). Great. Just what we need: more genetic superiority that reminds us of the Nazis and eugenics.
The Bureau blames everything on genetic damage: "In reality [the genetically damaged are] poorer, more likely to be convicted of crimes, less likely to be hired for good jobs…" (23.89). It creates kind of a chicken-or-egg situation. Does genetic damage cause poverty, or does poverty make people act as though they're damaged?
Tris finds herself believing that people are people, no matter what their genes say about them. She thinks that societal factors, not genetic factors, affect human behavior, and the whole genetic thing is a cop-out: "Some of the people here want to blame genetic damage for everything […] It's easier for them to accept than the truth, which is that they can't know everything about people and why they act the way they do" (22.51).
We're not sure if there's an easy answer to this dilemma. Tris ends up taking the easy out and erasing everyone's memory so that they forget the whole genetic damage issue altogether. Us? We think we agree with Matthew, who says, "If everyone would just keep learning about the world around them, they would have far fewer problems" (22.55).
There's a big ol' sculpture inside the Bureau of Genetic Welfare that practically has "symbol" written all over it in huge capital rainbow-colored letters. It's simply described as "a huge block of stone with a glass apparatus suspended above it" (14.46). What's the glass apparatus? A Chihuly sculpture? A crack pipe?
We don't need to analyze this symbol too much, because Zoe explains it point blank to us: "[The] slab of stone is the problem we're facing. The tank of water is our potential for changing that problem. And the drop of water is what we're actually able to do" (17.11). Tris, of course, has a rebuttal: "Wouldn't it be more effective to unleash the whole tank at once?" (17.17).
This exchange shows Tris's tendency to blow things up and ask questions later, which is exactly what she does at the end of the novel. Her actions at the end change the Bureau forever and result in her death. How would the results have been different if Tris had gone along with the drip-and-wait approach symbolized by this sculpture?
Even though Tris gets to leave the confining fenced-in isolation of post-apocalyptic Chicago, we still don't get any allusions to anything. She does get to see some billboards advertising makeup and soda and the like, although this is more of a commentary on advertising culture than any sort of pop culture reference.